Leah Williamson addressed the United Nations on Tuesday, September 18, with a powerful speech on gender equality in sport and the need to level the playing field for girls worldwide.
Williamson travelled to New York to tell world leaders about her recent visit to Za’atari – the world’s largest Syrian refugee camp – with the Arsenal Foundation.
In 2018, the Arsenal Foundation and Save the Children launched ‘Coaching for Life’, a programme that uses the power of football to build a sense of belonging and improves the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of children and their families affected by the Syrian war.
While at the refugee camp in Jordan, the Arsenal star saw first-hand the programme’s impact on children, particularly young girls.
In her speech to world leaders, Williamson mentioned the challenges and social restrictions girls face in certain countries that limit their access to football and other sports, using Za’atari as an example of how sport empowers young girls, and that it should be encouraged rather than restricted.
Williamson ended her speech with a powerful call to action: “2023 marks the halfway point in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. My message to everyone is that we have a big second half ahead but, if we work together, we can get the result we need.
“I’ve seen the progress at Za’atari, but there’s still so much more to do to level the playing field for girls around the world. We need to harness the power of sport and make sure we don’t leave girls behind.”
When ‘Coaching for Life’ first launched five years ago, only a few girls took part. Today, an equal number of girls and boys are graduating from the programme. This progress in such a short period of time is amazing, but there is still a lot of work to be done to improve access to sport for girls around the world.